Hot Luck founders Aaron Franklin, James Moody and Mike Thelin had described their vision for their first festival as something akin to a laid-back tailgate with serious food. They wanted it to be a cool hang with friends, where having fun was the only thing taken seriously. If the VIP event “Hi, How Are You?” that kicked off the fest was any indication, they’re well on their way to achieving their goal.
Los Angeles chefs Roy Choi (Kogi) and Sara Kramer of Kismet Los Angeles and Ivan Orkin of Ivan’s Ramen in New York City were a few of the visiting luminaries. Choi smoked tantalizing kalbi beef ribs and finished them on the grill and served it with fluffy rice and piquant quick-pickled kimchi, proving why he has achieved hislofty status as a Korean barbecue master. Choi and Franklin’s buddy, and “Chef” filmmaker Jon Favreau, was also in attendance, and Choi’s Instagram shows the food-loving director even had a hand in prep work.
The best bite of the night might have come from a man who makes his money writing, not cooking. Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn (whose 50 best barbecue joints in Texas list comes out next week) served a smoked NY strip finished on the grill and served with a brilliant Texas chimichurri that included pickles and onions caramelized in beef fat. He also had the added advantage of homemade tortillas from Miguel Vidal of Valencia’s Tex-Mex BBQ, a spot often praised by host Franklin.
Franklin barbecue was served inside and out, but on a night like this, there was no line, thanks to the manageable crowd size of the VIP event open to Whole Enchilada ticket holders and the fact that there was plenty of tasty competition, like the incomparable charcuterie from Olympia Provisions of Portland, Oregon. Among chef Elias Cairo’s excellent creations, a salami aged simply with salt to a funky perfection and a Spanish chorizo that tasted like hugging your Greek grandfather.
Hot Luck is a food and music festival and Saturday night performer Robert Ellis was spotted enjoying grub with friends and even the event’s namesake, the legendary Daniel Johnston turned heads with an appearance. The night continued later over at Baracuda, where the Black Lips rocked a joyous crowd. Hot Luck continues Friday with the Hi Lo, a ticketed event (purchase here) with a roster of chefs cooking the dishes that inspired them. (Read about what Aaron Franklin and Uchi chef-partner Tyson Cole will be cooking.)
Check out photos from “Hi, How Are You?” below.
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